Now I take the part of madness and rage, of all malcontents, of Lavinia’s mother and Macbeth’s wife, of Malvolio and all poor tormented fools, and I shall tell you where it begins.
In unconsoled loss—till it becomes an obsession and hunger, feeding on itself, and the very world’s laughter is mockery of pain. And the ravaged heart shows itself in bitterness and distributed guilt.
‘Twould be better if I became the Fool, and not Malvolio, for sourness is unwelcome. What does despair transgress?
The ground slopes away from several places here and all ways are open. One could go into quiet calm grief, ‘patience on a monument’ and be beloved.
Or one could change and become terrible and dark. One would be feared, Antigone and Medusa, but one would not be loved.
One could diminish and remain oneself, sweeter and calmer, and go into forgiveness.
One could always become the mad peddlar, flying insects on whirling strings, hurling a rain of abuses at everyone who dares the weather of thy mind.
Do you remember _Rudaali_?
In the echo, I say again: I rein myself in because these passions are mine alone. Mine to cherish, mine to burn, mine to parch and revive like the eternal seasons. I have made of these an airy cage, in whose soft light live the images of my obsession, cocooned in dreams. This is mine. In my few unfettered moments I am this. This boundary of freedom I draw with the reach of my stride, this ambit and wall of my heart, this momentary and forgotten gladness. And outside it the vast, sharp shapes of the world.
I shall watch. But no, nothing is as it was to be. Only the festering battlefield and no fate like Karna’s to elevate the mire. No sermon ready for faith, no cosmic peep to contextualise the madness. No sword but these arms, and no code of worthwhile sacrifice but the certainty of ‘kshay.’ There is no exit. The question bites like an insect: what do we do about this? I will watch as you ask.
Prahari – doorman. Here, I recall to the opening words of the Bhagavad Gita, when the blind king Dhritarashtra asks Sanjay to tell him the state of the great battle of Mahabharat. But the doorkeeper of insight here is any watcher through the ages, anyone who stands apart and watches the outcome of human endeavors. Mischeviously, I also think of Sartre’s Huis Clos and Arthur Clarke’s “The Sentinel.”
Kshay – is gradual diminution, catabolism, part of cosmic cycle of creation and destruction.
A bedraggled sparrow sits under the melting snow of my banister and cocks its head at the sun. Its food on the balcony is freezing this noon, and in the new sun the blowing snow sparkles like mica. As it hops up the roof tiles just across I remember another time, and a brief stretch of mica-laden mountainside high in Bhutan. Then, as a young woman I had recalled the starry story of ‘Lu-hit,’ ‘taaron ki raajkanya,’ the sinuous river that enters India as Brahmaputra, shedding body and identity and virtue as only water and legend can.
Because these connections are all there can be, because there is no other certainty, I can take these signs for wonders, scrying in gusts and whirls edge-caught in bricks and branches and hoods rising up from the roof-ridges till all things smoke in sunlight some ordinary miracles. ‘Tis grace , isn’t it.
She noticed the fine triangular fissures of her hands, and thought of floors and pans and doors. Of all the years, and cried a little for the girl she had been long ago in a sunny land, sitting by her desk and bed looking transfixed at the translucence of her blood and skin in the strong light. The wonder of that same hand. The form had taken shape now, the lines of life written, self-made, choices coarsened, and many doors had closed. Youth in its exuberance had taken flight and this remained. The clay after the river had receded, this mortal wrapping, the life and debris of the river, the mud of idols, a corpse or two. The ghats of a few lives. And so recollecting, she sent the remainder down the same river of lines. If it got away it would live. As hopes and floating lamps and idols and bodies did before their journey immersed them whole.
Every thanksgiving they fall, all the passion colors of life. And the rain laves them, turning dust to brine, ice to memory.
Ritual disintegration, disrobing of hope, of life, the color wheel. And all that is black is wet, turning back to Persephone turning to her dark lord.
These are the passion colors of the north, fit winter brides to Wordsworth’s pale gold sun and flaxen spring.
Those my dark hot passions and charred summer. I am out of my sun.
In presents that kindle and die and merge and become great and small in movements of and among nodes and the charges they bear
the material world becomes, as it were, each of kindling, fire and smoke in the continuous making and unmaking of matter and desire.
And a great roar of laughter and fear permeates the world, for this is a boon sacrifice –in the old sense of yajna, a prayer and an act for a possible, desired future– and a funeral pyre,
and our voices the chants that lie upon the air, keeping time, making time, marking for a little while, ‘here, hear ye gods, in this moment, we are here, and you have thus the lotus stem that connects your existence to ours.’
And in these rituals our bodies are the momentary patterns of how to move and what to fear in this new ground we are breaking, this new future, tempered desire and defeat
cold and formed in the ashes of the morning.
Wild with adoration of her lord she cast off her veils.
Cloth, shame, pain, earth, all forms forsaken
but this body, this space,
this knowledge of a self diffracted,
wild with that adoration she cast off
and kept nothing back to give — flowers to stone, Mallikarjuna–,
wild with adoration she cast off her veils, and you hid behind their fall.
“and seeing, I quell today
the famine in my eyes”
Mahadeviyakka, 12th Century. Trans. A.K. Ramanujan from medieval Kannada to modern English in his _Speaking of Siva_ (1973). #68, p 120.